Top 25 Cities for Workers With Disabilities

ByDeb Gordon

Updated: February 23, 2024

ByDeb Gordon

Updated: February 23, 2024

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Approximately 61 million people in the United States live with disabilities, defined as physical or mental conditions that impair one’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Just 18% of Americans with disabilities are employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 26% live in poverty. However, where you live can make the difference between economic opportunity and significant financial difficulty.

To understand where people with disabilities are more likely to be welcomed and supported in the labor market, MoneyGeek analyzed key measures of workforce participation, poverty and access to crucial services such as transportation and health care in 218 American cities.

Key Findings:

Top Cities for Workers With Disabilities

Top 25 Cities Where Workers With Disabilities Are Doing Best

Economic Realities That Workers With Disabilities Face

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean that people with disabilities have truly equal access to employment opportunities.

More subtle forms of bias and lack of accommodations can keep people with disabilities out of the workforce.

Other challenges can include lack of access to transportation. For example, in Arlington, TX — which ranked 135th on our list — 0% of workers with disabilities reported taking public transit to work. People with disabilities can modify vehicles to drive and access free "paratransit" services, but that doesn’t mean transportation is always easy or workable for a daily commute.

The financial costs of living with a disability can also be high, even with health insurance coverage, which most people with disabilities have. Financial planning and management can be challenging, and building wealth — such as through homeownership — can be out of reach for many people with disabilities living on Social Security benefits.

According to the National Disability Institute, people living with disabilities are three times more likely to report extreme difficulty paying bills and more than twice as likely to earn less than $35,000 per year compared to people without disabilities. It’s still legal to pay workers living with certain disabilities less than the Federal minimum wage in the United States.

“The lack of income leads to a greater likelihood that people with disabilities are unbanked, skip medical appointments and miss housing payments than people without disabilities,” said Jill Reynolds, associate practice area head for human services at Public Consulting Group.


How to Advocate for Better Opportunities for Workers With Disabilities

Our rankings show a wide range of local conditions for workers with disabilities and tremendous opportunities for improvement — even in the highest-ranking locations. People with disabilities and their advocates can champion changes to improve opportunities for workers with disabilities.

According to Julie Christensen, Executive Director and Director of Policy and Advocacy, Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE): “One of the most effective forms of advocacy is to promote stories of success. But this needs to be a shared responsibility. When workers with disabilities are able to share their stories, it can be incredibly powerful in breaking down some of the misconceptions and stigma that still exists. However, not everyone wants to focus on being different. We need more business leaders to tell their stories of how the inclusion of people with disabilities enhances their overall business and outcomes. These stories would shift the narrative from simply a feel-good story to demonstrating the contributions and value that people with disabilities bring to the workplace."

Here are a few things anyone can do to help advocate for people with disabilities:


Speak up!

Contact your elected representatives at every level: your state’s Governor, State Senator and U.S. House Representative. Let them know how much you care about issues that affect workers with disabilities. The Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) provides online resources for how to get started reaching out to elected officials and specific policy items that you can endorse when you do.


Advocate at work.

Self-advocacy at work can be challenging, but you have certain legal rights and protections thanks to the ADA. Research your rights and accommodation options to prepare to request what you need from your employer.


Be an ally.

Commit yourself to learning more about the experiences of people with disabilities. You may already be an ally to people with disabilities; you can always become an even better one. Expand your social media feeds. Read and watch stories by and about people with disabilities. Develop your own awareness of ableism and look out for accessibility challenges that you might be able to improve — or at least give feedback about. Don’t worry about understanding everything about living with a disability — everyone’s experiences are different — just be the best ally and supporter you can be now and then, strive always to do a little better.


Vote with your wallet.

Shop at brands and small businesses led by people with disabilities, then spread the word about your good experiences to amplify your impact.


To rank the cities where workers with disabilities are finding the best employment opportunities, MoneyGeek analyzed data from the American Community Survey, MoneyGeek’s Safest Cities and Safest Small Cities and Towns studies, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. MoneyGeek started with over 600 places in America that had populations of people living with disabilities of 10,000 or more. Places without granular data about workers with disabilities or lacking other data points for the analysis were removed to get to the final set of 218 cities.

The ranking of the top cities for workers with disabilities was based on six factors: safety, the population of people living with disabilities, labor force participation, poverty rates, health insurance rates for people with disabilities and cost of living. Each factor in the study was scaled to a score between 0 and 1. The factors were calculated as follows:

Population (full weight): The size of the community of people with disabilities was used as a proxy for the availability of services that support this community. Cities with less than 10,000 people with disabilities were removed from consideration in the analysis.

Labor Force Participation (double weight): This metric equally comprises two metrics.

  • Labor Force Participation Rate (75%): The percentage of the population of people who have disabilities that are working or looking for employment.
  • Labor Force Participation Gap (25%): The difference in percentage points of the rate of labor force participation compared to the labor force participation rate of people who don’t have disabilities.

Poverty Rate (full weight): This factor equally comprises two metrics.

  • Above Poverty Rate (50%): The rate of people with disabilities at or above the poverty level.
  • Above Poverty Gap (50%): The percentage point difference of the city’s rate of workers with disabilities earning at or above the poverty level and the poverty rate of all other people in the city.

Health Insurance (full weight): The difference in percentage points between the rate of workers with disabilities ages 18–64 that have health insurance and the rate of health insurance nationally.

Transportation (double weight): This factor is the percentage of workers that take public transportation.

Cost of Living (full weight): This factor adjusts for the cost of living in a city.

Full Data Set

The data points presented are defined as follows:

  • Population With Disability: Size of the population of people with disabilities in the city.
  • Pop. w. Disability - Labor Force Participation: The percentage of people who live with a disability that have a job or are looking for one.
  • Labor Force Gap: Difference in the labor force participation rate between people with disabilities and those without disabilities.
  • Poverty Level With Disability: The percentage of the population that is at or above the poverty level.
  • Health Insurance Coverage - With Disability: The percentage of the 18–64 population of people with disabilities that have health insurance.

About Deb Gordon

Deb Gordon headshot

Deb Gordon is the co-founder and CEO of Umbra Health Advocacy, and author of The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto (Praeger 2020), a book about shopping for health care based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government between 2017 and 2019. Her research and writing have been published in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, TheHill, and Managed Care Magazine.

Deb previously held executive roles in health insurance and health care technology services. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow and an Eisenhower Fellow, for which she traveled to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to explore the role of consumers in high-performing health systems. She was a 2011 Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree, and a volunteer in MIT’s Delta V start-up accelerator, the Fierce Healthcare Innovation Awards and in various mentorship programs.